One of the great Malay thinkers of the last century was Zainal Abidin bin Ahmad. He is popularly known as Za’aba. Many books were written about this great man. Abdullah Hussein, the literary laureate wrote one of them. It was a book titled Pendeta Za’aba dalam Kenangan. Every Malay should read it.
Prof Ungku Aziz wrote a very informative book entitled Jejak2 di Pantai Zaman. I have a copy in my possession since 1977. It is a book, I return to reading when I wanted to write on the Malays.Not only we can read Za’aba, we can also read Ungku Aziz.
Za’aba was probably the first Malay to write on Malay economics and Malay poverty. he started to write these subjects in the English Language.He began writing in 1923. Previously, Malay writers were more interested to write about the genealogy of Kings, about mausoleums and so forth. The Malay libraries were full of religious writings. But we could not find writings on Malay economics and Malay poverty.
Why are the Malays like this today? What do we mean ‘like this today’? In terms of income earnings, they are earning the least; in terms of unemployment, Malay youths constitute the largest group. In terms of welfare aid recipients, Malays formed the biggest group. Malay students are most in need of financial assistance to study further. In terms of housing, they represent the biggest group in wanting houses. In terms of controlling the economy, they owned less than 20% of the economy.
If you noticed, the Malays made the biggest all round improvement when the government relaxed its control over the people. The Malays achieved many great things when they switched living from the absolute rule of rulers to democracy. The idea of democracy, the rights of people, the rule of law, right to education, health, were introduced by the British said Zaaba. From then on, Malays improved their lives. Western Ideas gave Malays a sense of mastery over their surroundings and on their lives.
The coming of the British beginning from the 18th century, was the light at the end of dark Malay tunnel said Za’aba. They have been pummeled into submission, docility and servility by tyrannical rulers.
On average, the Malays improved their economy. The GINI coefficient which measures income inequality has improved tremendously for the Malays. But I must caution you that this improvement may not reflect economic productivity. Malay incomes may have increased due to the various income transfers and welfare programs. It could also mean they are more equal in poverty.
Be that as it may, these are commendable achievements that took place when people were given more freedom. As soon as the government thinks it knows best and start functioning on behalf of people and in the name of the people, the achievements slowed down.
Generally speaking, most of them are poor, earning enough to keep body and soul together. The average monthly income is less than the Chinese and Malaysian Indian. This breeds uneasiness and envy. Except the reasons for this lopsidedness are not explained truthfully. We shall come to this later.
According to the latest figures by EPU, the incidence of poverty among Malays is highest at 0.8. A principal cause for this, are the lopsided economic policies carried out by the ruling government. Yet they continue to vote in a government that has not done much to better their condition other that doing what is expected of a normal government. A good government does many things more. Zaaba had some answers to explain why Malays are like that.
Part of the fault lies with the Malays themselves. The other part is the type of government they chose and the leaders they elect. That truth of these observations made by Za’aba in the 1920s still holds until today.
He was one of the members who founded UMNO. He was born in Batu Kikir in Negeri Sembilan. Because of his work in Malay literature, Language and thoughts about the Malays, he was conferred the title of sage or pendeta in 1956. He was conferred an honorary Doctorate by UKM. It was given to him by Tun Razak Hussein.
In the 1920’s he wrote about the condition of the Malays. He wrote his articles in the English language. His command of the language was of a high standard. No one accused him of abandoning Malay culture when he wrote extensively in the English Language. Nowadays the Malay and language supremacist will run down people like Za’aba.
He says the distinguishing feature of the Malay is that he is poor. Poverty is second nature to the Malays. Poverty is the single most identifiable trait of the Malays; he is poor in terms of sen and dollars and wealth, he is poor in ambition, he is poor in terms of education and skills, he is poor in the mental instruments, he is also poor in terms of high conduct and behaviour. All the lacking makes the Malay, poor. To these, I will add poverty in their value system. The values that support a just society, based on the rule of law, supremacy of the rule of law are being abandoned by the promises of immediate gratification.
But these shortcomings can be overcome with great efforts; there is however one form of poverty that Zaaba thinks strikes to the core of the Malay being. He is poor in non material sense. This to Za’aba is more damaging than poor in material senses.
He is poor in terms of the prerequisites and conditions precedents that could make him overcome all those lacking and deficiencies. The Malay is still poor in terms of psychological make up. He is still trapped in a mental straitjacket. as a result, the Malay is easily influenced by material and spiritual extortion. UMNO people can go around instilling fear among Malays that if they do not support UMNO, they will lose all material comforts. PAS people can go around warning people if they do not support PAS, they are less Islamic and will be rejected by God.
These preconditions cannot be legislated onto the Malay psyche, they cannot also be grafted by a central command like what UMNO people and PAS people are doing at the moment.
They have grown fascist in their thinking- UMNO thinks Malays can be moulded by a state command centre; PAS thinks it can mould the muslim-ness of the Malays also by an authoritarian set up.
One extremely anti-Malay blogger describes the Malays as padi and coconut farmers and riverine, kampung dwellers. He forgets to mention, the riverine trapper, bird catcher, kite flyer, ketum consumer, sandal wood collector, gutta percha scrounger. Please don’t stop, say more nasty things.
But these are not descriptions that challenged the Malays- these are descriptions meant to keep the Malays that way. They are terms used to remind the Malays of their deficiencies. They are hidden-agenda driven constructs used to demoralise Malays into accepting their imposed intrinsic inferiority.
Some people say the Malays must not be made to go beyond these descriptions. The extreme anti Malay blogger wants the Malay to remain quintessentially Malay-coconut and padi farmers, riverine dwellers, bathing, relieving themselves in the same river.
Zaaba was extremely critical of the Malay and on the way, they conduct themselves. Zaaba is Malay and he was brave enough to point out that the fault lies with the Malays themselves for their failures and backwardness. He described Malays in the most negative ways so that the Malays are challenged to break barriers.
He was criticised and rebuked. Agents of the government at that time called him nasty names. They ran him down. These agents were also themselves Malays. You can read about this in Ungku Aziz’s book.
You can imagine what the UMNO people and its agents will do to him today. Zaaba pointed out that the Malays found themselves in a sorry lot as a result of centuries being ruled by tyrannical Malay rulers.
Zaaba will be called the running dog of non-Malays because. UMNO will assume that he has sold his soul to the kafirun.
Today, the agents of the present government and its supporters still do the same thing. They will run down their opponents. They will label him or her with all sorts of nasty things. They are doing this, because they are incapable of engaging in rational debate.
Some of them used religion to attack opponents. They will say that some religious issues cannot be analysed using human logic alone. Is that a suggestion that these people use extra-logic in their analyses of religious issues such as drawing inspiration while in a trance or receiving godlike revelations? Will it solve matters by saying, human logic cannot overcome Al Quran and as-sunnah? What do we do then?
When people start claiming ownership over divinity and make out as though they speak on behalf of God, it creates divisiveness and rifts in society.
These two sources are not owned by any particular group. What makes these people think, they speak according to the Quran and sunnah, while other people who disagree with their thinking are not? This is condescension masked behind pious hospitality.
We must reject people who think they are morally superior and more righteous than others. We know people who project themselves as pious and righteous are actually the exact opposites of their projected images.
It is long past due for the Malays to re-examine the reasons why they are under achievers in many aspects of life. Let us begin by examining the narrative which UMNO has embedded in the minds of the Malays for a long time.
The Malays are an unhappy people, envious, resentful and vengeful. UMNO says, the Malays are an unhappy race because the Chinese caused them to be unhappy.
The Chinese stole wealth from this country, they took away university places meant for Malays, they hate Islam, the Chinese want to remove Malay rulers. The Chinese will not stop there, if they take over the government, they will destroy everything to do with Malays. They will stop people using bahasa Malaysia, they will disband the economic empowering institutions like felda, felca, mara, fama, risda, etc. And of course the Chinese are behaving predatory because they have been influenced by the DAP.
These are tools used by the Malay supremacists. They want to instill fear, resentment and anger among the Malay community. The Malays become like a powder-keg waiting to explode. They instigate Malays to cause harm to the Chinese. UMNO leaders blamed everything on the Chinese, pretending to hate the Chinese. In reality they do businesses with Chinese, they go to bed with Chinese girls and do all sort of reprehensible activities with the Chinese partners.
Sanusi Junid , a former UMNO minister and who served a long time as UMNO secretary general debunked many of these false information. The DAP was not responsible for reducing Malay reserve land- it is the UMNO led government. The DAP wasn’t the one who introduced GST which caused the price of so many things to become expensive. Many businesses suffer because of GST. The many financial scandals were not created by the DAP or any other opposition parties.
The listing of FGV, once fully owned by Felda, was done by the Najib government. Those who are still holding FGV shares are incurring losses. the value of the shares has fallen by 60%. The 95,000 felda settlers, who bought FGV shares at RM4.55 unit, were not asked to do that by the opposition parties. Najib and Isa Samad promised them the moon and the heavens. The DAP or any other political parties did not create the NFC fiasco.
The story-line carried by the Malay supremacists is self serving. It is designed to cause fear and panic among Malays. The idea is to sow the seeds of apprehension and fear so that Malays will keep Najib in power. Staying in power is the singular obsession of Najib now.
He will do anything to stay on as PM and be in power.
He is willing to sacrifice the chance to win over state governments as long as he keeps federal government. In Kelantan, he is willing to work together with PAS which in return will help Najib stir up Islamic chauvinism. The UMNO leaders in Kelantan can forfeit the chance to take over Kelantan because Najib wants PAS to help him remain in power.
Leadership and the quality of a country’s leader is important. A blessed and prosperous country can be ruined by a bad leader and bad leadership. The unrighteous leader is one who continues his corrupt ways, continue to lie, continue to ransack the treasury and the country’s economy.